About Us: Tom

In a series of interviews conducted by ABC’s Maria Minaya, we’re going to introduce you to (almost) everyone who works at The American Book Centers in Amsterdam and The Hague.

Books form an integral part of our lives not only because they’re our bread and butter, but because our passion for them came first. Our mission is to pass them on. By reading these interviews you’ll discover the faces behind your favorite sections and get a glimpse of who we are.

Meet Tom

Where were you born?
I was born in Groningen.

What was your favorite food as a kid and what did you hate?
I liked everything that was not Dutch.  I grew up in the late sixties so that meant spaghetti alla Bolognese, pizza and some French food.  I also loved Indonesian food.  Otherwise there was no food I didn’t really like, except for some Dutch food that I found rather dull.

Were you read to as a child?
Yes, I was.

Did you have books in your house while growing up?
Yes, we had a lot of books.  My father was a big reader.  My mother read less.

Quick free associations: 
Sale: Bargains.
Magazines: Difficult…  I’m more of a book person.
Piano: There is no piano here.
Price gun: Price guns are a pain to load and they’re never around when you need one.
Cash Register: Big friend.
Discount Card: Attractive for regular customers.
“I’m looking for a book…”: It’s about time you get yourself a book!

What is your connection to books and the written word now?
I sell books more than I read them.  I’d love to read more, but I just don’t get to it.  My life is very busy, but I do read the newspaper every day.  Hopefully in the future I’ll get to reading more books.

Which sections do you oversee at ABC The Hague?
My sections are foreign languages, travel guides, biographies, science, poetry, Spanish language books, and local interest.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is contact with the customers and my colleagues.

How would you describe your customer service, i.e., how do you do your job in terms of:  cars (Ferrari or Fiat?),  pastries (Hema or Holtkamp?), or shoes (Puma or Prada)?
I think I’m pretty efficient and eager to help.  I’d also like to think that I’m approachable.  I’m friendly, I listen and I pay attention to the customer.  It is important to let them know they’re seen.

How long have you worked at ABC?
Seven years.

Who is your favorite author? Or what are you reading now?
The author I’ve read the most and actually met is the Flemish writer, Jef Geeraerts.  I met him at a book fair in Belgium.  He’s a novel writer who puts a great deal of research into his work.  He has written books about Africa which draw upon the time he lived there during the colonial period.  These books are very good.  After that he began writing thrillers.  I think his early work is the best.

Right now I’m reading a couple of books at the same time.  I’m reading a diary of a German woman at the end of the Second World War in what is now Poland.  I’m also reading Lucifer by Joost van den Vondel.  I also read in different languages for pleasure of course, but also to maintain my language proficiency.  I read in six languages, Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.

What is the opposite of bookselling?
Not selling any books at all!  Keeping all the books in the shop.  Like a Monty Python sketch where customers come to a store and the personnel say; “No, sorry that book is not for sale.  Neither is that one.  And that book is too beautiful. It must stay in the shop!”

What do you think people should know about ABC?
A lot of people still don’t know about the discount card that entitles them to a 10% discount. The same goes for our special order service, including Alibris, where we can get second-hand books. Also that we have a first floor in The Hague that is a special bargains part of the store.